“All our customers still talk about my dad – he was everyone’s favourite guy and the ultimate host”, says Stascia Bantouvakis, 33, who owns Greek restaurant, Yiamas, in Glasgow, with her mum, Linda Bantouvakis, 63.
The pair lost their dad and husband, Yianni, back in 2016, when he died of cancer aged 61. Since then, they’ve worked hard to grow the successful business that he opened back in 2012. Now, in tribute and alongside the traditional downstairs taverna, which features a blue neon sign, they’ve transformed the second level into a contemporary bar, Yianni’s.
“It had always been my dad’s dream to own and run a successful two-floor restaurant in Glasgow – and he achieved that”, says Stascia. “Since he died, my mum and I wanted to find a way to push that dream and the business forward. We had thought about making the upstairs into a bar for a long time, and the past year or so provided an opportunity to make it happen”.
It’s a late-night venue, open from 5pm until 1am, serving Greek wine and bottled lager, and classic cocktails like the espresso or passionfruit martini. The food includes a light mezze and grazing menu, with dishes including dolmades, seeded and fried honey saganaki kefalograviera (a type of cheese) and ouzo tapenade.
Over the last couple of years, including when they were operating a takeaway service, Linda and Stascia noticed a surge in interest in Greek cuisine.
“We’ve got a really strong core of regulars, but lots of new people have been coming in too. I think it’s partly to do with people trying to recreate aspects of the holidays they can’t go on and experimenting with new types of food during lockdown, “ Stascia says. “I can understand it. There’s so much to enjoy about Greek food and drink – from the fresh ingredients to the fantastic wines the country produces. I heard chef Simon Rogan say on a podcast recently he’d go Greek for his last meal and he certainly knows what he’s talking about!”
Their new bar’s decor is fun and lighthearted, with a holiday vibe and Hokusai-style wave wallpaper, which was hand-painted by Stascia’s friend, Penelope Gilles. There’s also a dramatic fish sculpture made by Linda’s brother, and the pink sign was created by a family friend. The mural at the entrance celebrates their cartoon-y gyros mascot, which also featured on T-shirts that consistently sold out during lockdown and helped keep the family business afloat.
Although they’re situated in the city centre, the vibe is going to be convivial, rather than rowdy.
“It’s perfect for people looking to extend the night without being drowned out by loud music, or for the hospitality trade finishing shifts. The perfect blend of the culinary and conversational,” says Stascia. “I’ve definitely inherited dad’s passion for hospitality so I can’t wait to host all our guests who’ve been with us for a long time, and a new generation who come to see what Yianni’s is all about.”
16-20 Bath Street, Glasgow (0141 353 1386, www.yiamas-greek-taverna.co.uk)